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Bible Commentaries
Judges 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-6


The first major section in the book (Judges 1:1 to Judges 3:6) explains very clearly why the period of the judges was a dark chapter in Israel’s history. God revealed the reasons for Israel’s apostasy and consequent national problems in terms too clear to miss.

The years immediately following Joshua’s death saw a transition from success to failure. The events of this period set the scene for the amphictyony (rule by judges) and provide a background for the main part of the book (Judges 3:7 to Judges 16:31).

"The Book of Judges may be viewed as having a two-part introduction (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5 and Judges 2:6 to Judges 3:6) and a two-part epilogue (Judges 17:1 to Judges 18:31 and Judges 19:1 to Judges 21:25). Parallel ideas and motifs link the first introduction (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5) with the second epilogue (Judges 19:1 to Judges 21:25), and in like manner the second introduction (Judges 2:6 to Judges 3:6) with the first epilogue (Judges 17:1 to Judges 18:31)." [Note: J. Paul Tanner, "The Gideon Narrative as the Focal Point of Judges," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:594 (April-June 1992):149.]

Verse 6

B. Israel’s conduct toward Yahweh and Yahweh’s treatment of Israel in the period of the Judges 2:6-3:6

This section of the book provides a theological introduction to the judges’ deeds, whereas Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5 is a historical introduction. It also explains further the presence of Canaanites in the Promised Land. The first introduction (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5) is from Israel’s perspective and the second (Judges 2:6 to Judges 3:6) is from God’s. [Note: Lilian R. Klein, The Triumph of Irony in the Book of Judges, p. 13.] The first deals with military failure, and the second with religious failure. [Note: K. Lawson Younger, "Judges 1 in Its Near Eastern Literary Contest," in Faith, Tradition, and History, pp. 222-23.]

Verses 1-6

3. God’s purposes with Israel 3:1-6

The purposes for which God allowed the Canaanites to live among the Israelites were four. He wanted to punish Israel for her apostasy (Judges 2:3), and He wanted to test the Israelites’ faithfulness to and love for Himself (Judges 2:22; Judges 3:4). He also wanted to give the new generation of Israelites experience in warfare (Judges 3:2), namely, how to conduct war (by depending on Yahweh), not just how to fight. Furthermore, God allowed some Canaanites to remain in the land so it would not become wild before the Israelites could subdue it completely (Deuteronomy 7:20-24).

Even though the Israelites had defeated some of the Canaanites in various battles during Joshua’s day, significant groups within the Canaanite tribes remained in the land (Judges 3:3; Judges 3:5). [Note: See Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas, map 68, p. 50, for a map that illustrates the limits of Israelite control.] The Sidonians (Judges 3:3) were the Phoenicians, Sidon being Phoenicia’s chief port until about 1100 B.C. when Tyre began to eclipse it. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Sidon," by D. J. Wiseman; Wolf, p. 396.] These enemies (Judges 3:5) represented the whole of Canaan: the Philistines on the southwest, the Sidonians on the northwest, the Hivites on the northeast, and the Canaanites on the southeast. The Israelites then proceeded to marry them and worship with them (Judges 3:6). From "the people served the Lord" (Judges 2:7) they had degenerated to the point that they "served their gods" (Judges 3:6).

"In these two verses [5-6] the narrator announces the theme of the book: the Canaanization of Israelite society." [Note: Block, Judges . . ., p. 141.]

"The Israelites descended three steps in their cultural accommodation to paganism: (a) they lived among the Canaanites, (b) they intermarried with them, and (c) they served their gods. Each step is a natural one leading on to the next." [Note: Lindsey, p. 384.]

"The book of Judges ends in chaos, and the monarchy led both kingdoms to destruction. The lesson? Self-assertion and idolatry produce deadly consequences. From this perspective, the book of Judges is, like all the books of the Former and Latter Prophets, a call to covenant loyalty-a call to repent of self-assertion and idolatry and a call to honor, worship, and serve God alone." [Note: McCann, p. 39.]

Verses 7-11

A. The first apostasy 3:7-11

The first of six periods of oppression by Israel’s enemies began while Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother, was still alive and strong (cf. Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13). The writer identified each of these periods with the phrase "the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD" (Judges 3:7; Judges 3:12; Judges 4:1; Judges 6:1; Judges 10:6; Judges 13:1).

Many scholars now identify Asheroth (Judges 3:7, NASB) with the Canaanite goddess Asherah (NIV) and the Ugaritic Athirat. They distinguish her from the Mesopotamian female deity Astarte.

"She was frequently represented as the tree of life, which is often depicted in Canaanite art as flanked by caprids which reach up to its fruit. . . . The tree of life is stylised in Canaanite art, and in the fertility cult was represented either by a natural tree, which was planted in the sanctuary, or by a stylised wooden pole, the ’aserah." [Note: Gray, p. 248.]

In the Hebrew text the phrase "the anger of the Lord was kindled" (Judges 3:8) reads literally "the Lord’s nose became hot." This is one of the most obvious examples of an anthropomorphism of God in the Old Testament. It pictures His anger most graphically. [Note: Lewis, p. 31.]

Mesopotamia (Judges 3:8) was at this time, ". . . the fertile land east of the river Orontes covering the upper and middle Euphrates and the lands watered by the rivers Habur and Tigris, i.e., modern E Syria and N Iraq." [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v., "Mesopotamia," by D. J. Wiseman.]

The king’s name was Cushan (Judges 3:8). The last part of the hyphenated name Cushan-rishathaim means "doubly wicked." The Israelites who experienced his harsh rule over them for eight years probably added it to his given name.

In response to His people’s cries for deliverance (cf. Exodus 2:23), God moved and empowered Othniel to lead the Israelites in throwing off their foreign yoke. Throughout Judges we read that God delivered the Israelites when they called out to Him for salvation from their desperate situations (cf. Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 7:2; Judges 7:9; Judges 10:12; Judges 18:10). He did not wait until they cleaned up their lives, the popular meaning of repentance. God provided deliverance as grace in response to their helpless cry, not as a reward they had earned (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). [Note: See Greenspahn, pp. 391-95; and Lawhead, pp. 25-27.] Each deliverance was "a sort of new exodus" for the Israelites (cf. Exodus 3:7-8). [Note: McCann, p. 42.]

". . . when ’Yahweh raised up a savior’ for Israel he was not reacting to any repentance on Israel’s part. If anything, he was responding to their misery rather than to their sorrow, to their pain rather than to their penitence." [Note: Davis, p. 50.]

Othniel was already a prominent warrior in Israel and lived in Debir in Judah (Joshua 15:15-17; Judges 1:11-13). Note again the early primacy of the tribe of Judah (cf. Judges 1:3-20; Judges 20:18). Having proved faithful earlier, Othniel was selected by God for more important service here. At the proper time God endowed Othniel with an increased measure of grace by placing His Spirit on this man (Judges 3:10; cf. Numbers 24:2; Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 19:23; 2 Chronicles 20:14). The gift of the Spirit did not in itself guarantee success. There had to be cooperation with the Spirit for that, and there was increasingly less of both cooperation and success as judge followed judge (cf. Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14).

"In its peculiar operations the Spirit of Jehovah manifested itself as a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isa. xi. 2). The communication of this Spirit under the Old Testament was generally made in the form of extraordinary and supernatural influence upon the human spirit." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 293.]

"Since Pentecost (Acts 2) a more general and permanent endowment of the Holy Spirit has been the privilege of every disciple." [Note: Arthur Cundall and Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth (Cundall wrote the section on Judges), p. 74. Cf. John 14:17.]

Evidently Cushan controlled most, if not all, of Israel. This assumption rests on the fact that Mesopotamia lay northeast of Canaan, but Othniel lived in the southwest part of Canaan. In the cases of the other judges, God normally raised up persons who lived in the areas in Israel that were closest to Israel’s oppressing enemies. Cushan was apparently the most powerful king that oppressed the Israelites during the Judges Period. By beginning with the record of his defeat, the writer announced that if Yahweh could deliver Israel from this "emperor" He could rescue them from any foe. [Note: Block, Judges . . ., pp. 150, 152.]

After the "war" with the Mesopota-mians (Judges 3:10), a period of 40 years of peace followed (Judges 3:11). During this time Othniel probably continued to judge Israel and then died. Judges 3:11 probably indicates that Ehud followed Othniel chronologically. [Note: See David L. Washburn, "The Chronology of Judges: Another Look," Bibliotheca Sacra 147:588 (October-December 1990):418.]

Since the years of peace that followed four deliverances numbered 40 (Judges 3:11; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28) and 80 (Judges 3:30), some scholars believe these are round numbers indicating one and two generations. [Note: E.g., Block, Judges . . ., p. 155.] We also read of the Canaanites dominating Israel for 20 years (Judges 4:3), the Philistines doing so for 40 years (Judges 13:1), and Samson judging for 20 years (Judges 16:31). However, other lengths of oppressions and judgeships are not round numbers (Judges 3:8; Judges 3:14; Judges 6:1; Judges 10:2-3; Judges 10:8; Judges 12:11 [?], 14). Note, too, that the reports of Israel enjoying rest end with Gideon’s judgeship; after that there was no more rest.

"Many have noted that the narrator writes nothing negative about this man [Othniel]. This is intentional. The prologue has prepared the reader to expect a progressive degeneration in the moral and spiritual fiber of the nation. As the embodiment of the people, the leaders whom Yahweh raises in the nation’s defense exhibit the same pattern." [Note: Ibid., pp. 149-50.]

Contrast the character of Samson, the last judge in the book. The most important factor in the story of Othniel, I believe, was the fact that God’s Spirit empowered him (Judges 3:10). This was true of all the judges, though the writer did not always mention it. No one can accomplish anything significant spiritually without the Holy Spirit’s enablement (cf. Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5). However, with His assistance, His people can be the agents of supernatural change and can carry out God’s will.

The "minor judges" filled the same role in Israel as the "major judges" (Gideon, Samson, et al.). [Note: See Theodore E. Mullen Jr., "The ’Minor Judges’: Some Literary and Historical Considerations," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 44 (April 1982):185-201.] The commentators vary concerning whom they regard as major (primary) and minor (secondary) judges. Wood, for example, listed only Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon as minor judges. [Note: Wood, p. 7.]

"The reason why the accounts of the judges vary in length is that their stories vary in their instructional value regarding this subjective aspect of redemptive significance. That is, the accounts which are longer present those stories which provide the most helpful guidelines for the Christian life." [Note: Ibid., p. 41.]

Verses 7-31


"The judges are twelve in number, reckoning either Deborah or Barak as a judge and omitting Abimelech, whose status in fact depended wholly on his descent from Gideon, and who was in effect not a ’deliverer’, and a ’judge’ only in the sense of a local ruler on his own account." [Note: John Gray, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, p. 189.]

Israel’s Judges
JudgeScriptureIsrael’s OppressorsLength in Years
OthnielJudges 3:7-11MesopotamiaCushan-rishathaim8
(ca. 1358-1350 B.C.)
(ca. 1350-1310 B.C.)
EhudJudges 3:12-30Moab
(with Ammon & Amalek)
ShamgarJudges 3:31Philistia
DeborahChs. 4-5CanaanJabin20
(ca. 1250-1230 B.C.)
(ca. 1230-1190 B.C.)
GideonChs. 6-8Midian
(with Amalek & Arabia)
Zebah & Zalmunna740
(ca. 1180-1140 B.C.)
TolaJudges 10:1-223
(ca. 1117-1094 B.C.)
JairJudges 10:3-522
(ca. 1115-1093 B.C.)
JephthahJudges 10:8 to Judges 12:7Ammon18
(ca. 1123-1105 B.C.)
IbzanJudges 12:8-107
ElonJudges 12:11-1210
AbdonJudges 12:13-158
SamsonChs. 13-16Philistia40
(ca. 1124-1084 B.C.)
(ca. 1105-1085 B.C.)

The total number of judges cited is 12. By selecting 12 judges the writer may have been suggesting that all 12 tribes of Israel had apostatized. One writer argued that these 12 judges each did their work in a different month, thus adding another impression of completeness to the record. [Note: J. G. Williams, "The Structure of Judges 2:6-16:31," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 49 (1991):77-85.] The writer also recorded seven examples of oppression and deliverance (by Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson). This sevenfold scheme gives the impression of totality to Israel’s degeneration. This suggests that the writer may have viewed these disasters as fulfillments of the curses in Leviticus 26 where the number seven occurs four times (Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:24; Leviticus 26:28; cf. Deuteronomy 28:25). [Note: Block, Judges . . ., p. 145.]

Certain formulaic expressions appear in Judges 2:11-23 and then recur in the record of Israel’s apostasy (Judges 3:7 to Judges 16:31). However, as noted in the table below, they appear with less frequency as the narrative proceeds. Having established the pattern, the writer did not feel compelled to repeat these expressions as frequently since the reader learns to anticipate them as the narrative unfolds. The breakdown of these expressions is a rhetorical device that parallels and reflects the general moral and spiritual disintegration in Israel as a whole. [Note: R. H. O’Connell, The Rhetoric of the Book of Judges, pp. 19-57; and J. Cheryl Exum, "The Centre Cannot Hold: Thematic and Textual Instabilities in Judges," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 52 (July 1990):410-31.]

The Israelites did evil (Judges 2:11-13).Judges 3:7Judges 3:12Judges 4:1Judges 6:1Judges 10:6Judges 13:1
Yahweh gave them over (Judges 2:14).Judges 3:8Judges 3:12Judges 4:2Judges 6:1Judges 10:7Judges 13:1
The Israelites cried out (Judges 2:15; Judges 2:18).Judges 3:9Judges 3:15Judges 4:3Judges 6:7Judges 10:10
Yahweh raised up a deliverer (Judges 2:16; Judges 2:18).Judges 3:9Judges 3:15
Yahweh gave the oppressor to the deliverer (Judges 2:18).Judges 3:10Judges 3:28
The land had rest.Judges 3:11Judges 3:30Judges 5:31Judges 8:28

Verses 12-30

1. Oppression under the Moabites and deliverance through Ehud 3:12-30

The Moabites and Ammonites were not only neighbors who both lived to the southeast of Canaan, but they were also descendants of the same ancestor, Lot. The Amalekites lived on Israel’s southern border and were descendants of Esau. The Moabites had allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites and had captured the site of Jericho (the "city of palm trees," Judges 3:13). They had evidently rebuilt it since Joshua’s conquest. [Note: See my comments on Joshua 6:26-27 in my notes on Joshua for further explanation.] The Moabites had taken over the surrounding area and had forced Israel to serve them for 18 years (Judges 3:14).

Jericho was in Benjamin’s territory, so it was not unusual that God would raise up a judge from that tribe to lead Israel against the Moabites. We learn later that the Benjamites at this time were far from admirable on the whole (chs. 19-21). Yet God raised up a faithful man from this tribe to do His will. The English text’s description of Ehud as left-handed (Judges 3:15) is misleading. The Hebrew expression translated "a left-handed man" probably means "a man restricted as to his right hand." [Note: J. A. Soggin, Judges: A Commentary, p. 50; et al.] This was an ironic condition for a Benjamite since "Benjamin" means "son of the right hand." Many Benjamites were left-handed (Judges 20:16) and not a few were ambidextrous (1 Chronicles 12:2). Ehud may not have been able to use his right hand as well as his left. In spite of this abnormality God used him to bring a great victory to Israel.

Most commentators regarded Ehud’s methods as entirely legitimate. [Note: E.g., Cundall and Morris; George Bush, Notes on Judges; Wood; Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Ehud: Assessing an Assassin," Bibliotheca Sacra 168:671 (July-September 2011):274-82; et al.] Some, however, did not, as the following quotation illustrates.

"Ehud’s conduct must be judged according to the spirit of those times, when it was thought allowable to adopt any means of destroying the enemy of one’s nation. The treacherous assassination of a hostile king is not to be regarded as an act of the Spirit of God, and therefore is not set before us as an example to be imitated. Although Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer to His people when oppressed by Eglon, it is not stated (and this ought particularly to be observed) that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon Ehud, and still less that Ehud assassinated the hostile king under the impulse of that Spirit. Ehud proved himself to have been raised up by the Lord as the deliverer of Israel, simply by the fact that he actually delivered his people from the bondage of the Moabites, and it by no means follows that the means which he selected were either commanded or approved by Jehovah." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 298.]

The facts that Ehud did what he did as an act of war and that God nowhere condemned him for it have led most interpreters to believe he was correct in assassinating King Eglon (lit. fat ox). God used other tricksters (e.g., Jacob, Samson) and other murderers (e.g., Moses, David, Paul). Note that Ehud (possibly "loner" [Note: E. John Hamlin, Judges, p. 73.] ) had no other Israelites with him when he confronted Eglon. He stood alone for God.

It seems that Ehud delivered the Israelites’ taxes to King Eglon, left Eglon, passed the "idols" (lit. sculptured stones) at Gilgal, and then returned to Eglon. This may have been a Gilgal on the border between Benjamin and Judah west of Jericho rather than the one northeast of Jericho (cf. Joshua 15:7). [Note: Wolf, p. 400.] He had prepared to execute Eglon before going to Jericho. Did he lose heart at first when he left Jericho? Did he receive fresh motivation to kill the king when he passed the Canaanite objects of worship at Gilgal and then returned to Jericho to finish the job? This seems to be what happened.

The room in which Ehud met Eglon (Judges 3:20) was on the flat roof of his house. Rooms built this way caught the prevailing currents of air and therefore provided a cool place of retreat from the hot weather.

Evidently Eglon did not expect Ehud to draw his sword with his left hand. He probably did not know he could do so. This was part of Ehud’s strategy. The sword was a short cubit in length, about 16 inches. This is the only place in the Old Testament where this Hebrew word describes a cubit. The short cubit was as long as the distance between the elbow and the knuckles of a fist. Ehud’s sword went all the way through Eglon’s fat body. It apparently contained no crosspiece (hilt) between the handle and the blade. The handle lodged in the fat while the point opened a hole in his back where his excrement oozed out.

"Thus by way of a humorous if vulgar twist, something unexpected ’comes out’ of Eglon-his excrement. Such a grotesque occurrence would have been precisely the kind of detail that a story of this sort would have delighted in recounting and would be unlikely to omit. Although it no doubt strikes modern readers as vulgar and distasteful, in the context of the story it adds a note of extreme humiliation with respect to the Moabite king that would have delighted an Israelite audience, especially as it takes place at the very height of the drama: the national hero not only dispatched the enemy king with much cunning but in the process caused him to become besmirched with feces." [Note: Michael L. Barré, "The Meaning of prsdn in Judges III 22," Vetus Testamentum 41:1 (1991):9-10. Cf. McCann, p. 23.]

The writer may have recorded this last disgusting detail to draw a parallel with the unclean Moabites’ departure from the land following Ehud’s victory. Notice the cool way Ehud behaved after he slew the king in his cool room (Judges 3:23). Perhaps it was the odor of Eglon’s excrement as well as the locked doors that led the servants to conclude that the king was relieving himself (Judges 3:24).

"With effective employment of ambiguity, irony, satire, hyperbole, and caricature, he [the writer] sketches a literary cartoon that pokes fun at the Moabites and brings glory to God. . . . Biblical historians seldom, if ever, wrote their pieces primarily so later readers could reconstruct historical events. Their agendas were generally theological and polemical, and few texts are as overt in the latter respect as ours." [Note: Block, Judges . . ., pp. 156-57. See also Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Yahweh versus the Canaanite Gods: Polemic in Judges and 1 Samuel 1-7," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):165-80.]

"The alleged inferior defeats an obvious superior; the one supposed to be unclean leaves the royal Eglon prostrate in his own dung; the apparently disabled person proves both mentally and physically more adept than his opponents." [Note: McCann, p. 45.]

Archaeologists have not yet identified the town of Seirah (Judges 3:26), but it may have stood to the northwest of Gilgal in Ephraim’s hill country (Judges 3:27).

The Moabites who at this time were living west of the Jordan River would have fled back home eastward to their native country. For this reason the Israelites seized the fording place (Judges 3:28).

Judges 3:29 is difficult to interpret for two reasons. First, the word translated "thousand" can also mean "military unit" (cf. Judges 20:10). Second, it is not clear whether the Israelites killed these Moabites as they tried to cross the Jordan on this occasion. Perhaps this was the total Moabite force that the Israelites killed in their war with Moab. In either case this was a great victory for Israel.

The writer’s primary emphasis in this pericope seems to be that God used a man whom others would have regarded as unusual, because he was left-handed, to effect a great victory. Ehud did not excuse himself from doing God’s will because he was different, as many Christians do. He stepped out in faith in spite of his physical peculiarity. Israel too had physical abnormalities, but when she stepped out in trust and obedience God blessed her with success.

Verses 12-31

B. The second apostasy 3:12-31

As time went by, Israel’s departure from God progressed. The writer reflected this by showing that Israel suffered under two oppressing powers at the same time next: the Moabites and the Philistines.

Verse 31

2. Oppression under the Philistines and deliverance through Shamgar 3:31

Several factors suggest that Shamgar’s victory took place sometime during the 98 years described in the previous section (Judges 3:12-30). First, Judges 4:1 refers to Ehud, not Shamgar. Second, there is no reference to Israel doing evil in Yahweh’s sight in this verse. Third, the length of the Philistine oppression was long. Fourth, the writer did not mention a number of years that the land enjoyed rest. Evidently during this 98-year period the Philistines also oppressed Israel.

David Washburn argued that the phrase "after him" may indicate the beginning of a new episode. If this is so, we should place Shamgar contemporary with Deborah rather than Ehud (cf. Judges 5:6). He acknowledged, however, that it is impossible to determine exactly when Shamgar slew the 600 Philistines. [Note: Washburn, pp. 417-18, 421.]

The Philistines had been in Canaan since Abraham’s day at least (Genesis 21:32; et al.). However, during the period of the judges a major migration of the Sea Peoples from the Aegean area brought many new inhabitants into Canaan, perhaps about 1230 B.C. These peoples settled in the coastal areas of Canaan, especially in the South. They became the infamous Philistines who opposed and fought the Israelites until David finally brought them under Israel’s control.

"The name Shamgar is non-Israelite and may have been of Hittite or Hurrian origin. This does not automatically infer that he was a Canaanite, although this is possible; it may witness to the intermingling of the Israelites with the native population. In any case his actions benefited Israel." [Note: Cundall and Morris, p. 80. See also Hamlin, p. 78.]

Peter Craigie believed that Shamgar may have been a Hurrian mercenary soldier rather than a Hebrew. His name "ben (son of) Anath" suggests that he might have been a religious Canaanite since Anath was a Canaanite goddess. [Note: Peter Craigie, "A Reconsideration of Shamgar ben Anath (Judges 3:31 and 5:6)," Journal of Biblical Literature 91:2 (1972):239-30.] It seems unlikely, however, that he was a religious Canaanite because the writer identified him as a hero through whom God delivered His people. Another suggestion is that "son of Anath" indicated that Shamgar was like Anath, namely, of a warlike character. [Note: Cyrus Gordon, The Ancient Near East, p. 151.] Shamgar could have been the son of a mixed marriage or even a foreigner whom God used. Perhaps he was a proselyte to Yahweh worship. Whatever his background and whomever he may have served, his destruction of 600 Philistines accomplished God’s will, specifically the destruction of the non-Israelite occupants of the land.

The writer did not record Shamgar’s hometown, but some commentators connect Beth-anath (lit. house of Anath) in Naphtali or Beth-anoth in Judah (Joshua 15:59) with him. Most assume Anath was the name of Shamgar’s father.

An "oxgoad" was a stout stick 8 to 10 feet long used to train and drive oxen.

"At the thin end they have a sharp point to drive the oxen, and at the other end a small hoe, to scrape off any dirt that may stick to the plough." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 299.]

Evidently Shamgar seized an opportunity to kill 600 Philistines with this unusual instrument that he used as a weapon (cf. 2 Samuel 23:11). The text does not say how quickly he did this, whether all at once, or one by one in guerrilla type warfare.

Though the writer did not call Shamgar a judge in the text, he was one of Israel’s heroic deliverers (cf. Judges 5:4). Few students of the book exclude him from the list of judges, though he may not have functioned in the nation as a typical one.

Like Shamgar, Samson also fought the Philistines. The writer devoted four chapters to Samson, but Samson did not accomplish in four chapters what Shamgar did in one verse. Samson did not deliver Israel. This comparison further demonstrates the pattern of progressive deterioration that characterizes the Book of Judges. [Note: McCann, p. 48.] It also suggests that the writer saw more instructive lessons for the reader in Samson’s life than he did in Shamgar’s.

The major lesson we should learn from Shamgar is that a shady personal background and lack of proper equipment do not keep God from working through people who commit to doing His will. Many Christians think that because they do not have a good background or the best tools they cannot serve God. If we commit ourselves to executing God’s will and use whatever background and equipment we have, God can accomplish a great deal through us.

In this third chapter we see that God raised up unusual people and empowered them to do great acts for His glory. Often very distinguished people rise from humble backgrounds, as these judges did. Jesus’ disciples are similar illustrations. A single individual committed to executing God’s revealed will is all He needs. He uses all types of people but only those committed to His will who step out in faith. In the case of the judges, the will of God was the extermination of Israel’s enemies.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Judges 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/judges-3.html. 2012.
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